Year 7

The murder of Thomas Becket

I can describe Henry II's conflict with Thomas Becket and explain the impacts this had on Church and crown.

Year 7

The murder of Thomas Becket

I can describe Henry II's conflict with Thomas Becket and explain the impacts this had on Church and crown.

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Lesson details

Key learning points

  1. Henry had his son crowned during Thomas Becket's absence from England.
  2. Becket returned and excommunicated the bishops involved in the coronation.
  3. Becket was murdered by four of Henry's knights.
  4. The king’s reaction to Becket's murder reveals the extent of power the Church held across Europe.
  5. Becket's murder ultimately strengthened the king's control over the Church .

Common misconception

The murder of Thomas Becket was the undoing of Henry II.

Long-term it increased Henry’s control over the Church. Bishops’ opposition decreased, while the Pope gave support after 1172.


  • Excommunicated - when someone is excommunicated they are expelled from the Catholic Church by the Pope

  • Cathedral - a cathedral is a large and impressive church that contains the seat of a bishop

  • Martyr - a martyr is someone who dies for their beliefs

  • Penance - penance is to punish yourself to seek God’s forgiveness for a sin

  • Pilgrimage - a pilgrimage is a religious journey, usually taken to a shrine or a site of religious importance

Pupils will enjoy writing a gruesome report about the murder of Thomas Becket. Make sure this does not obscure the wider lesson outcome regarding the relations between Church and crown.
Teacher tip

Content guidance

  • Contains conflict or violence.


Adult supervision suggested.


This content is © Oak National Academy Limited (2024), licensed on Open Government Licence version 3.0 except where otherwise stated. See Oak's terms & conditions (Collection 2).



6 Questions

What gave the Church spiritual authority over people in medieval England?
People's belief in the legal system
People's belief in the authority of the barons
Correct answer: People's belief in God and dependence on the Church for guidance
In medieval England, what did the Church's power often rival?
the power of the common people
Correct answer: the power of the crown
the power of the knights
Why did Henry II attempt to reform the Church in England?
to build more cathedrals and churches
to increase the wealth and power of the clergy
Correct answer: to resolve the problem of clergy breaking the law and not facing justice
Why did Henry II appoint Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury?
to have a hunting companion
Correct answer: to help with reforms of the English Church
to oversee royal parties and events
What were the Constitutions of Clarendon?
a collection of architectural designs for cathedrals
Correct answer: a series of legal reforms that reduced the power of the Church
a set of rules designed to increase the power of the Church
Select the reasons why Becket resisted Henry’s reforms of the Church.
Correct answer: Becket became strongly religious.
Correct answer: Becket believed the Church should be free from the king's interference.
Becket wanted to focus on hunting and partying.

6 Questions

Write the missing word. Henry II had his son Henry the King crowned as King of England early.
Correct Answer: Young, young
According to Becket's argument, who should have carried out the coronation of the Young King?
Correct answer: The Archbishop of Canterbury, because it was in accordance with God's will.
Any bishops, because they had the divine right to do so.
Any local lords, because they were very knowledgeable about English customs.
Why did four knights decide to confront and murder Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral?
they sought to promote religious harmony in the region
Correct answer: they wanted to prove their worth to the king
they wanted to test their sword-fighting skills
In the short term, how did the murder of Becket affect Henry II's kingdom and his position as king?
Correct answer: it damaged his kingdom and led to opposition from the Church and his own family
it had no impact on his kingdom
it strengthened his rule and popularity
How did Henry respond to Thomas Becket’s murder? Select two responses.
Henry excommunicated all clergy who opposed him.
Henry exiled himself from England.
Correct answer: Henry removed controversial points from the Constitutions of Clarendon.
Correct answer: Henry walked barefoot to Becket’s shrine where he was whipped by the clergy.
In the long term, how did the murder of Becket impact Henry II's control over the English Church?
it caused the Church to become independent of the crown
Correct answer: it increased Henry's control over the Church
it led to increased opposition from the bishops
it resulted in a loss of royal authority

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